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Cambrai


Panzer Vor!!!
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Today, 100 years ago, Colonel Hugh Elles gave the Tank Corp its Green, Red and Brown Flag which he flew from his tank. Making his famous speech, Special Order No.6, he said:

“Tomorrow the Tank Corps will have the chance of which they have been waiting for many months – to operate on good going in the van of the Battle.

All that hard work and ingenuity can achieve has been done in the way of preparation.

It remains for Unit Commanders and tank crews to complete the work by judgement and pluck in the battle itself.

In the light of past experience, I leave the good name of the Corps with great confidence in your hands.

I propose leading the attack of the centre Division.”

Major-General M. J. Elles. CB, DSO
Commanding the Tank Corps in France

Cambrai, 19th November 1917

Distribution: To Tank Commanders

FEAR NAUGHT

 

:poppy:

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Just been reading an article on the BBC site,I visted the area a few wears ago and photographed the Tank corps memorial.

I think tonight there's a documentary with Guy Martin building a replica WWI tank.

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There was a commemoration in London today.  RTR Association, RTR brass, Bovvy's MkIV replica (but not Guy Martin's!), Museum brass, etc.  Did it make the news?  Not a hope.  RBL had a special Cambrai commemorative enameled poppy pin, but unlike the Passchendaele and Somme ones it was on-line order only.  I didn't manage to get one.

 

Guy Martin's Tank turned out to be Norfolk Military Museum's Tank Built By JCB With A Bit Of Help From Guy And A German Guy.  One might have thought that JCB could have been persuaded to provide a safer diesel powertrain with remote linkage rather than the ancient RR B60 engine cobbled together with tractor scrap and a bloke sat on the gearbox without a seat at the back working the selectors.

 

While the Police eventually vetoed the Lincoln Remembrance idea, I suspect the Council realised the damage the vehicle would do to the historic High Street (it needed to slew) and the cost of repairs.  But Cambrai was a nice touch.  No mention though of the new museum built for Deborah, to where I believe she was moved prior to Remembrance Day.

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We do. He was a tank driver (still as part of the Heavy Branch, Machine Gun Corps, this being around the time tanks first officially came into existence). To cut a long story short, his tank was hit by German machine gun fire and the petrol tank was disabled, leaving it stranded just ahead of the British line, ready for the Germans to use as a ranging object. Obviously deciding this was unacceptable, he got the tank back to its rallying point by hand-feeding the engine, apparently with a stirrup pump, for three miles under heavy fire. Quite something.

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Quite a feat indeed.  That award was only created in March 1916, so he must have been one of the earliest recipients.  Is he listed under the MM recipients in the Tank Museum's list?  (http://www.tankmuseum.org/museum-online/medals/thes55819).  There are about 70 listed, but I'm sure that can't be everyone from RAC and its predecessors.  If he isn't listed and you have the supporting documents (citation etc) then I'm sure the Museum would like to know about it.

 

I'm guessing he was in a MkI tank then if it was early HBMGC days.  Even more of a feat if it was in one of the unarmoured MkII or III tanks that were hastily fielded to make up the numbers.

 

It was possible to hand feed the carburetors via feed cups (3?) and IIRC this was necessary for starting anyway as the fuel feed system needed the engine to be running to work.  Must have been a bit like spinning plates to keep them topped up to keep the engine running, especially in a bucking vehicle - spilling petrol on the hot engine would not have been a good idea!  I presume that if one cup ran dry the engine would stall, and re-starting could be quite a lengthy (and strenuous) process.  3 miles cross country would have taken at least 2 2-gallon cans.

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Thanks for the heads-up there. He's not on the list - I'll mention it to my Dad. We do have the citation. I'm not sure what the tank was, but we think we know its serial number, which would answer that question, so I suspect my Dad has more of an idea. I don't know much about tanks - always been a bit air-obsessed - but the more I learn about what great-grandad was up to, the more interesting it becomes. It's about time I paid Bovington a visit, I think.

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  • 1 year later...

My great great uncle was in the HMGC and was awarded the MC he died in 1917 of pneumonia and is buried in a cemetery in France. Unfortunately both the medal and citation have vanished so we are trying to find more info on his service record. We don't know if he served in tanks or not.

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Sadly, not uncommon to not be able to find service info, regardless of what "Forces War Records" promote. My wife's grandfather went through the entire WW1 from France to Mespot to ending up in the RFC in Palestine, but, despite numerous searches and having his service number, no records can be traced; he hadn't got a common name, either. Also, my father was in the RAF in WW2 but I can find no record of him. Medals being "lost" is altogether too common (sold off or just dumped).

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  • 2 years later...

My wife and I journeyed to Cambrai and whilst there I asked about the plinth vehicle that one sees enpictured in some old books.  Well, we learned that it was scrapped years ago.  So much for preserving history, eh?   The replica at the Norfolk Tank Museum is a handsome project well executed, a delight to see and tour.

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